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Jason Foster, chief executive, Cynozure

Jason Foster, chief executive, Cynozure

How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?

 

We’re in a fortunate position to be able to work on our purpose of creating a better future for all through the positive and open use of data and the aims, objectives and vision of our customers. We put people and culture first, data and technology second, and this helps us focus on the things that truly matter to drive value out of data and analytics.

 

2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?

 

2020 was certainly a year like no other. March 2020 was a sucker punch and shock for everyone but I’m proud that as a business we went back to first principles, focused on our value and created a plan we called "thriving through adversity".

 

This helped us to continue doing what we love, which is supporting the community and our customers to create adaptable data strategies and businesses that are ready for the future.

 

As 2020 accelerated digital transformation by ten years, we have rapidly stepped in to help our customers get their hands at the wheel of their businesses with data, insight and better decision-making prowess.

 

We took our senior data leaders club national and global, which was previously a challenge due to the physical constraints. We also launched a US division of our business to widen the reach of our work and support the innovative market there. We got our heads down, kept agile, focused on what’s important and we feel fortunate that we’ve seen success ourselves and for our customers.

 

Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?

 

We have some fantastic projects underway that will continue through 2021 in many different industries, solving many different business problems and using market leading technology. We’re looking forward to growing the US business, increasing the value that our senior data leaders’ members club provides across the world and expanding the use cases we support. Now is the time for organisations to get match fit for data and I’m seeing a huge shift at board level in the appetite to do this.

 

Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?

 

Our purpose and what gets us out of bed is to create a better future for all through the open and positive use of data. It’s at our core to care and obsess about that. That’s data for good. It forms the basis of the kind of work we do, the kind of clients we want to work with, and the value we can add. Most of all, it drives the behaviour and attitude of our team and the shared values we want with our customers. This goes beyond focusing on charities, public institutions and "for good causes" and extends into commercial businesses, where they have power to create a better future for everyone.

 

What has been your path to power?

 

The power I feel I have is in doing things that impact others positively. Create an environment for individuals I meet, my team, our community and industry to have the ability to perform at their best, be fulfilled and do good in the world. There’s no real path to that as such – I guess an upbringing by kind, supportive and fair parents and having surrounded myself with people that lift rather than drain my energy.

 

My path to CEO at Cynozure is purely a collection of experiences (successes, failures) and lessons, plus a desire to be in control of my destiny. I’ve been in data, technology and digital my whole career - in industry (mainly retail), consulting, and selling software. I’ve been poacher and gamekeeper and wanted to create a business that I would be proud to buy from if I was a board member in industry.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

 

My proudest achievement has been establishing Cynozure as a recognised brand across the world. We are small and mighty with unreasonably big ambitions. I wanted to create an attractive business that people wanted to work with as part of the team, as a partner or as a customer. I’ve been honoured to create and serve our community as part of this journey and I’m lucky to work with some brilliant people. Our work has helped our client’s humanitarian efforts across the world, preserve the UK’s cultural heritage, support children with cancer, promote the arts and many more commercial outcomes for our other clients, all of which I am super proud.

 

Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?

 

I’m close to publishing my first book (possibly available by the time this goes to print) with a brilliant industry peer, Barry Green. This hasn’t been a long-standing career goal as such, but once the idea swirled around and I decided it was something I was keen to explore, I’ve fallen in love with the creative process. The book takes a look at an agile and innovative approach to establishing data as a critical business capability in any organisation and will help business, data and technology leaders create adaptable data strategies. This has built on my desire to share a career’s worth of learning in this space and I can’t wait for you all to read it.

 

How closely aligned to the business are data and analytics both within your own organisation and at an industry level? What helps to bring the two closer together?

 

Data guides what we do, and we guide what our customers do with data and how. We don’t see any of that as separate. Data is about business things – your customers, your suppliers, your locations, your finances, your team, how they interact, what they do, where they go, what engages them. Data is there to support those business things.

 

What helps bring them close together is recognising this and building a culture that understands and is capable of trading in that way. Through the CDO Hub, our senior data leader members’ club, we try to advocate this message so the industry acts and sets itself up in this way. Our methods and approaches have this principle at their heart, so our industry customers are also working towards this ambition.

 

What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?

 

First is broad education. What does data mean to our business? How does it add value? What will it do for me? What does good look like?

 

Next is demonstration. You need to show people what value data can add, not just talk about it. You need proof points and solid examples that show the outcome necessary.

 

Then its targeted education. Teach your organisation to know how to make better decisions, how to interpret data, how to ensure robust analysis and all the associated technical skills required. This all needs to be wrapped up in communication – articulating the strategy for data and how you will build the necessary capabilities.

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